Texas district enjoys interoperability, continuous enhancements, and customer feedback options with Skyward
When it comes to edtech, districts have a lot of boxes to check to see who can meet their needs the best. With an abundance of SIS and ERP systems to choose from, comprehensive solutions that work well with others, constantly update their product, and value meaningful interactions with customers are often most appealing.
Boerne Independent School District in Boerne, Texas, about 20 minutes west of San Antonio, relies on their SIS and ERP system—Skyward’s Qmlativ Education Management System—to manage their large district. JR Walker, coordinator of data systems and applications at Boerne ISD, commends Skyward’s integration abilities, constant improvements, and response to customer feedback, which makes his job much easier.
"It is so easy to use Clever and Skyward together."
The importance of interoperability
At Boerne ISD, interoperability is essential to running day-to-day operations.
“At a minimum, it keeps people from having to enter data into multiple locations,” said Walker. “Aside from being a huge time saver, interoperability between our systems helps us keep our data safe and gives us the ability to access it when needed.”
Prior to implementing Qmlativ, Boerne ISD was faced with an outdated software system that made daily tasks, let alone interoperability options, difficult.
“Finding data in our old system was extremely difficult,” said Walker. “Data requests could take an entire workday for me to complete. Now, with Skyward, they take me a fraction of the time.”
When Boerne ISD switched to Skyward, interoperability became much easier and less time consuming.
“Despite our previous information system having documentation on the database fields, it was still extremely difficult to query the database,” said Walker. “We interfaced with various systems, but it’s definitely easier in Skyward. The database schema is so well-designed that I am usually able to write an integration interface in a couple of hours.”
While the district’s Qmlativ system integrates with dozens of third-party software, Walker’s favorite integration is with Clever.
“It is so easy to use Clever and Skyward together,” said Walker. “I love that I can go into the API with Clever and completely take out the middleman, which is the person at the school district managing the data. All of our vendors go through Clever as well, reducing the number of data imports we have to complete. These things combined save me a lot of time and headaches.”
Overall, Walker enjoys the integration capabilities Skyward offers within Qmlativ.
“There are quite a few options available,” said Walker. “From API, OneRoster exports, scheduled tasks, and custom extracts, we are able to integrate nearly any data point with vendors.”
"The more features that are in Skyward, the easier and less complicated everything becomes."
Sharing a growth mindset
As a growing district, Boerne ISD is proud to have an SIS and ERP system that is growing alongside them.
“Skyward is constantly being enhanced to bring new features to its customers,” said Walker. “Whenever I see Skyward coming out with something new, I can see how it would be helpful at my district and make my job easier in the future.”
Despite increasing its features and tools, Qmlativ does not require more and more people to run the system.
“Although we’ve seen roughly 15% growth in enrollment since we implemented Qmlativ in 2018, we have been able to maintain our data with existing staff,” said Walker. “We can see that Skyward is committed to keeping their system easy to maintain. For example, almost all of our utilities are done through a mass process, taking some database function and simplifying it to be easily run by an end-user. It’s just fantastic.”
Skyward’s approach to edtech matches Boerne ISD’s mindset: educational technology is most impactful when it frees the user from having to work in the computer system. For a teacher, the connection they make with their student is paramount. Every minute that can be reduced performing tasks on a computer is time that can be devoted to teaching a student.
“Your computer is just the tool that helps you do your job, it's not your whole job,” said Walker. “With Skyward, we are all able to spend more time on the things that matter, whether that be working with students, teaching other administrators how to better use the system, collaborating with leaders, etc.”
"Qmlativ is a continuously improving product, and the more voices being thrown in on good ideas, the more robust the system is for everyone else."
Customer feedback with real results
For Walker, it is important that customer feedback is built into the technology systems he uses. With Skyward, he gets plenty of opportunities to make his voice heard. One such way is through the Product Ideas Portal.
“A single school district can suggest an idea and if it’s a worthy pursuit, every district in the state benefits,” said Walker. “It truly gives you a voice as a district. We use it often.”
Another way that Walker is able to give feedback is through the various user research panels that Skyward runs. A recent panel that Walker enjoyed being a part of was one focused on position distribution sets.
“Position distribution sets were a bit of a nightmare before Skyward reworked them,” said Walker. “Now they are to a point where a new employee could walk in and understand them easily, which is a very satisfying change to witness.”
Other projects that Walker has previously worked on focused on workflows for new hire and job postings. As a district, Boerne ISD recently served as a resource for teacher recommendations of the course selections product within Skyward.
“Being able to see your suggestions actually be applied is great,” said Walker. “It is because of that I am so willing to continue to participate. Whenever I see an email come through to join a user group panel my answer is always ‘Yes, absolutely.’”
Boerne ISD and Skyward: next steps
Looking ahead, Boerne ISD is excited to use Skyward for even more of their daily tasks and operations.
“I’d love to see my district take advantage of every single feature,” said Walker.
Although Boerne ISD will continue to value interoperability, they are always evaluating the third-party systems that they use to see if it is something that they could be doing in Skyward.
“The more features that are in Skyward, the easier and less complicated everything becomes,” said Walker.
Future projects at the district include implementing curriculum clusters in Qmlativ and exploring course selections. Personally, Walker would like to gain experience creating dashboards that administrators can view to gauge various areas of interest.
“Using the information obtained from our SIS, the goal is to build a website that will inform viewers about certain aspects of our district, such as enrollment numbers, how many kids are passing their grade, and more,” said Walker.
For other districts considering the switch to Skyward, Walker and Boerne ISD want to urge others to start as soon as possible.
“The more districts that embrace Skyward, the better,” said Walker. “Qmlativ is a continuously improving product, and the more voices being thrown in on good ideas, the more robust the system is for everyone else.”